The conspiracy by three Guyanese, Russell De Freitas, Abdul Kadir and Abdel Nur, who had already pleaded guilty, and one Trinidadian, Kareem Ibrahim, yet to be tried, of plotting to blow up the fuel lines at Kennedy Airport has shocked Guyanese here and overseas, including in the US. Its intention was to unleash a series of cascading explosions which was expected to threaten the very existence of New York, at least in the minds of these individuals who must have been suffering from delusions of a serious nature to believe that such a plot was feasible. No serious person would have believed that these down and out characters, with the possible exception of Abdul Kadir, could blow open even an old ovaltine tin containing spit and carbon, which we did as children, much less one of the largest airports in the world.
The offence of conspiracy does not take into account capacity which these men obviously did not have. It requires only that intent be proved. The obvious lack of capacity of this rag tag bunch, led by an angry and deluded old man, will not spare them stiff jail sentences. The judiciary of the United States stands guard in defence of the security of a country which has suffered one of the most serious acts of terrorism in history. Their sentences are likely to reflect a significant deterrent element to send a message to other would-be plotters, notwithstanding their obvious lack of capacity to complete their plan. Public hostility, especially since they are foreigners, is likely to be a factor.
Many will blame the informant, Stephen Francis. A convicted drug dealer, he made an arrangement with the FBI to act as an informant. He infiltrated the gang and began to inform on its activities. He urged the plotters on. He financed them. His interest was to save himself from imprisonment for offences he had already committed. He had a long history of criminal activity, mainly drug running. Delivering these conspirators and giving evidence leading to a conviction would cap his career of duplicity and earn his freedom. His was no nobility of purpose such as protecting the homeland. But United States law has long approbated entrapment by informants. It is one of the most effective devices in law enforcement in the US.
This case has brought much public focus on Guyana in the US. In addition to the evidence in the case and the nationality of three of the defendants, reports suggest that the FBI’s target was really Adnan El Shukrijumah, who is alleged to be a leading terrorist and involved in the plotting of the 9/11 terrorist bombing of the Twin Towers in New York. His father is a Guyanese and he is said to have or had a Guyana Passport. The FBI could not ensnare EL Shukrijumah, as if such a weird plot by men who had long lost their youth, contemplating a ‘ninja style’ attack and had no money or no prospect of raising any, would attract the attention of a seasoned and serious terrorist with millions of US dollars on his head. The US authorities couldn’t get the shark so they settled for the sardines.
However, the consequence is that once again Guyana has been put in the limelight for the wrong reason. Even though there is no allegation or evidence that Guyana promotes terrorism, and it is hardly likely that the US would consider that Guyana deliberately allowed or allows terrorist plots to be fomented on its soil, nevertheless the publicity arising from this case will bring Guyana to the attention of the US public in a negative light. I don’t know what can be done to counteract this image but the Government should consider whether such possibility exists and, if so, to take steps so that such a negative image does not simmer in the consciousness of the average US citizen. Maybe the power of the diaspora can be harnessed in such an activity. Their good name as well as Guyana’s is at stake.
Those who know Abdul Kadir would not have thought that he was a man who had an affinity for guns. Photographs tendered at the trial showing him armed with several guns, even if some were toys as he claimed, revealed an aspect of his character of which we were unaware. His conveying of information about Guyana to Iran, hardly amounting to spying as alleged at the trial, reveals a divided loyalty even if it does not quite define him as a traitor. His explanation that he went along with the plotters only for the money explains his involvement in this harebrained scheme. It will be hard for Guyanese who know him not to feel some sympathy with the pleas in mitigation which are likely to be made in his favour and in favour of the co-conspirators at the sentencing stage. Their lives, already broken by circumstances, are unlikely to survive the trauma of long prison sentences. And they are unlikely to bring harm to the US.
The United States has suffered greatly from terrorism and attempted terrorism. It is to be expected that its resources are extensively deployed to infiltrate, locate and dismantle terrorist cells and plots. This case proves that anyone, anywhere, who is crazy enough to contemplate harming the US had better think twice because the chances are that he/she is likely to be discovered are high. Guyana does not countenance terrorism and itself has stringent laws to protect its citizens. If anyone in Guyana were to contemplate such activities against Guyana or, while in Guyana, against any other country, it would be expected that the full force of the law would be applied. WE expect no less from the US but justice can be tempered by mercy.